Alisha Stone and Julie Armstrong are used to pumping milk – not iron – at work.
Julie is the Service Operations Manager at Tui Ora and Alisha is a health promoter at Taranaki District Health Board. She’s pictured with Zoe, aged one years.
Both maintained a routine of breastfeeding while working. Neither found it plain sailing but they say it’s worth the extra organisation and there are spinoffs for employees and employers.
World Breastfeeding Week begins in Taranaki on Friday (July 31) with The Big Latch On taking place. (See details of venues below). Officially, the week runs throughout the country from August 1-7.
Alisha is still feeding Zoe by expressing milk at work and storing it for her daughter to drink later.
She made signs for her office and popped them on the door when she expressed. She talked with colleagues, and say her employers’ willingness increased feelings of loyalty. In the early days she went home during breaks or fed Zoe on-site.
While she struggled to breastfeed older daughter Sasha, she wasn’t deterred second time round. “It’s important bonding for baby and mother. It’s worth that little bit of extra time to connect, have a snuggle, make you relax.
“It’s also easy, convenient and cheap not having to prepare formula – it’s an anytime, any place food.”
Her manager Rawinia Leatherby says a happy mama pepi unit equals a happy family unit – and a “happy boss.” TDHB is a Breastfeeding Welcome Here site so it’s important to walk the talk and role model a supportive culture.
“I acknowledge for Mums that it can be daunting but I would encourage them to talk to their manager before they go on leave to see how they can make it work,” says Alisha.
Julie stopped breastfeeding daughter Maggie (10 months) just recently but she persevered for [SF1] months, expressing milk and storing it in a fridge.
Her partner’s shift work also allowed him to bring Maggie to work so Julie could feed her. She says she appreciated the ability to work shortened hours despite a busy role.
“It was difficult at times. Sometimes I would have back-to-back meetings, and then go straight home to feed her. But I think it’s about prioritising what you want and I knew that there were long term benefits.”
Tui Ora is certified as a Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI) workplace, says Julie Foley, Mama & Pepe Hauora Programme Coordinator. This is a public declaration that it supports the return to work of breastfeeding mothers and meets legislative requirements of infant feeding breaks.
She says there are many good business reasons to accommodate breastfeeding mothers such as less absenteeism, retaining valuable employees, boasting morale and increasing productivity.
Under the Employment Relations (Breaks and Infant Feeding) Amendment Act 2008 employers also need to provide facilities and appropriate breaks.
Julie says there is lots of free help available for families and employers from Tui Ora and the TDHB. Both loan out breast pumps for example. At Tui Ora services include antenatal classes, lactation clinics, advocacy, breastfeeding peer support and Tamariki Ora/Well Child services. There is also health promotion regarding breastfeeding through the Mama and Pepe Hauora programme.
* The Big Latch On takes place in New Plymouth at The Rumpus Room from 10am while in Hawera it will be at the Presbyterian Centre, Argyle St, 10am